Friday, June 03, 2005

Fruit fly sex

Crazy little article in the New York Times about the mating habits of fruit flies:

When the genetically altered fruit fly was released into the observation chamber, it did what these breeders par excellence tend to do. It pursued a waiting virgin female. It gently tapped the girl with its leg, played her a song (using wings as instruments) and, only then, dared to lick her - all part of standard fruit fly seduction.

One gene, apparently by itself, creates patterns of sexual behavior in fruit flies.The observing scientist looked with disbelief at the show, for the suitor in this case was not a male, but a female that researchers had artificially endowed with a single male-type gene.
That one gene, the researchers are announcing today in the journal Cell, is apparently by itself enough to create patterns of sexual behavior - a kind of master sexual gene that normally exists in two distinct male and female variants.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that females given the male variant of the gene acted exactly like males in courtship, madly pursuing other females. Males that were artificially given the female version of the gene became more passive and turned their sexual attention to other males.

What I really love are those electron microscope pictures of fruit flies, especially the ones where they inactivate a gene and you end up with a fruit fly with two front ends or no eyes or other sinister permutations....

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